Breaking the Ten Commandments in 2008
"Sports is a game. You need to play by the rules." -John Baxter
For all athletes' endzone signs-of-the-cross and pointing to heaven between innings, very few actually live by any religious rubric.
The past year has been punctuated by the standard bevy of spectacular championship titles, seedy controversy, underdog ascents and dynasty collapses. And through it all, no commandment was left unturned.
Here's a look at the wild sins of the sports that came out of 2008.
I. "Have no Gods before me."
T.O. should probably start on a smaller scale. Like maybe putting other receivers before him.
II. "Thou shall not worship false idols."
No sport is more superstitious than baseball. The religion of worshipping good luck charms and OCD compulsions is so firmly entrenched in our National Pasttime, that it even has its own patron saint in the form of Turk Wendell.
So while it's not usual for a baseball player to come out to the public with his off-the-wall rituals, as a Yankee fan, I would have preferred it if Jason Giambi's crowning superstition was a rabbit's foot instead of a prop from the set of "The Birdcage."
III. "Thou shall not take the Lord's name in vain."
In the 78th All Star game at Yankee Stadium, Chase Utley had the same reaction I probably would have if I was inexplicably booed by an entire stadium upon taking the field.
First: confusion. "Boo?!?"
Then, ire. "F&*# you!"
IV. "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath."
NFL Sunday, for all intents and purposes, exists in a Utopia-like vacuum. Which is why we don't think twice about drinking all day when we have to work the next day. Which is why no hangover is stronger than the desire to get up at 11am to watch the pre-game shows. Reason, logic, humanity, convention are all tailor-fit to accommodate football on Sundays, and not the other way around.
Brandon Marshall rejected this sanctity when he made something more important than the game at hand. He had planned to make some kind of display of Obama-support in the endzone by clasping together his hands, which were decked in a white glove and a black glove.
I don't even get this really, but it was ultimately moot, since his teammate had the sage foresight to stop him before he risked an endzone celebration penalty.
We get it. You like Obama. But this is NFL Sunday.
JUST. PLAY. THE GAME.
V. "Thou shall honor thy mother and father."
Tim Donaghy, the NBA ref found guilty of fixing games to align with his gambling, called his father on Father's Day to break the news his son was about to get busted by the Feds on conspiracy charges.
What's worse, his father himself had been a distinguished former college basketball ref, so it's a safe bet that his dad would have preferred a tie for Father's Day.
I guess the equivalent would be if I called my father, who owns a pet cemetery, and weakly confessed I was being arraigned on charges of exhuming dead pets and selling them on ebay. Or maybe for burying living pets to inflate profit margins. Either way.
VI. "Thou shall not kill."
Or more aptly, "Thou shall not be acquitted of murder charges only to test your luck with adventures in kidnapping and armed robbery."
VII. "Thou shall not commit adultery."
Cheating=unforgivable. Cheating when you have children=despicable. Cheating on the mother of your children with Madonna...uh...why??
I generally assume most athletes are involved in extramarital activities. In fact, during the All-Star break, a former MVP happened to be at the same bar as my buddy, who told him, "Players wear their clothes so baggy now, what good does that do? I tell ya, when I was playing road games, I was wearing my pants 2 sizes smaller than normal, if you know what I mean."
VIII. "Thou shall not steal."
The Angels clinched a playoff spot sometime around when the Olympics were kicking off. Anaheim had virtually ZERO holes in its game. Pitching, power, momentum...
...And then the ALDS came around and Vlad decided he was Rickey Henderson.
There's a fine line between "aggressive base running" and "looking aggressive while running the bases." Actually, not that fine a line.
IX. "Thou shall not bear false witness."
The list of people Clemens has NOT born false witness against grows smaller every time his name is splashed across the Reuters wire. Pretty soon he's going to be "misremembering" things like his ERA and W count.
"No, my career ERA is a firm 1.29. I don't remember ever giving up runs."
"Yes, that's right. I'm saying Greg Maddux died years before he could ever pass my wins count."
Though this may have been the biggest lying scandal of 2008, for my money, no lie trumps Isiah Thomas throwing his 17-year daughter under the bus to evade press around his apparent prescription overdose.
But as far as I'm concerned, NO lie in the past year has handed me more amusement than Plaxico Burress claiming he shot himself not in a nightclub...but at Applebees.
X. "Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's possessions."
Though its origins are in 2007, Spygate came to its muddled conclusion in March 2008. The question will always remain why strategic genius Bill Belichick wanted the Jets' plays documented in the first place.
But his sins were ultimately punished on February 3, 2008. I hope he taped that game too, since he didn't stay long enough to see the ending.
After a year of transgressions and moral mishaps, perhaps these athletes should change their official party line from "I'd like to thank God..." to "Forgive me, Fans. For I have sinned..."